Are You a Candidate for Mouth Cancer?
Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer, affects many people every year – about 51,000 of them. Once discovered, it can be hard to treat. One thing that stands out about this type of cancer is that it is the most preventable form. While certain people do have a higher risk of mouth cancer than others, knowing the risks can greatly reduce the likelihood of getting this form of cancer.
Oral Cancer Risk Factors
A risk factor does not at all mean that someone will get mouth cancer. It simply means that the individual has a greater likelihood of developing the disease.
Many of the causes of mouth cancer are options and part of the lifestyle that people choose to engage in. Two of the biggest risks are smoking and heavy drinking of alcohol. People who do both are 100 times more likely to get oral cancer than those who do not engage in either one. About 80 percent of people who get this cancer use tobacco in some form.
Another major risk factor of this type of cancer is being out in direct sunlight for too many hours. Besides being in the outdoors, getting exposed to UV radiation at a tanning salon only increases the likelihood of developing a lip cancer.
Genetics is also a cause for mouth cancer and throat cancer. People who have two specific genetic conditions: Fanconi anemia (a blood condition) and Dyskeratosis congenita have a very high risk of getting cancer in the oral cavity.
Another factor is the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is the same one that causes cervical cancer in women. It can spread to the mouth through oral sex. While most of the time it does not cause a problem, a specific type of HPV (HPV16) is connected with cells growing out of control and causing cancer in the mouth and throat. This particular type of cancer has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. About 20 to 30 percent of cases of oral cancer are connected to HPV.
Being a man is another risk factor. Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer as women. Women seem to have some degree of immunity to oral cancers – especially to HPV throat cancer.
Other risk factors include a weakened immune system and poor nutrition. A disease called lichen planus is also a risk factor, and so is age; most people who get an oral cancer are over 55.
Signs and Symptoms of Mouth Cancer
Some forms of mouth cancer have very few symptoms in the early stages. Sometimes an oral cancer is not noticed until it has already spread – usually to the lymph nodes. Symptoms that may be noticed include:
Pain when swallowing
A sore throat
A feeling that something is stuck in your throat
A painful tongue
Mouth ulcers that do not heal
Patches of red or white on your tongue
Teeth that have become loose without an obvious reason
Dentures that no longer fit right
A hoarse voice
A lump or thickening of the lining in your mouth.
Some oral cancers really do not cause symptoms until they have already spread. Currently, there is not any test that can be given to screen for it. They are often discovered when going for a routine dental checkup, when you have symptoms that need looking into, or when you see changes in your mouth.
Diagnosis for Oral Cancers
Once a dentist detects what may be considered to be oral cancer, further examination is necessary. There are several tests that may be involved, which will likely start out with a blue dye called toluidine blue, or a laser, or possibly with a brush biopsy. Other tests may include an actual biopsy and scans.
There are several types of scans that may be used, depending on how far cancer has spread. If treatment with radiation or chemotherapy is to be used, other tests may be utilized to determine your general health beforehand.
Oral Cancer Prognosis
Several types of mouth cancer treatment will be given if and when cancer is discovered. After diagnosis, a treatment plan will be made. It will likely include one or more of the following: oral surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and then it will be succeeded by reconstructive surgery to rebuild your mouth and teeth.
Oral cancer is staged to determine how far it has spread. When a diagnosis of a stage 1 cancer is discovered, there is an 83 percent chance of living beyond five years.
Preventing Oral Cancer
Since oral cancers are often preventable, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing it. The steps include quitting tobacco completely – or greatly reducing it, eliminating drinking alcohol, staying out of the sun or using sunscreen to protect your lips, and avoiding junk food and processed meats.
If you live in the Carrollton, TX or Grapevine, TX areas, and you believe you may have mouth cancer symptoms, you can get an oral examination by Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board-certified Periodontist. For more information, or to set up an appointment, you can call his office today at (817) 756-8578.